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Service management: A million jobs or a job with a million parts?

Just because they can doesn't mean they are

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Workshop Not so long ago there was the stuff that IT folk did, and there was stuff that non-IT folk did. The business was run by business people, and the IT department was run by IT people. Of course it made sense for the two sides to interact.

To the outsider, it may have looked like the IT folk needed some business sense to help them run things in a more shipshape fashion, and that the business folk needed a bit of IT literacy beyond their desktops to help them ‘delight their customers’ more efficiently and consistently.

It wasn’t long before the IT industry started talking about ‘alignment’, ‘experiences’ and ‘relationships’ and ‘service’: everything would become fantastically well managed, users would all be happy and everyone in IT would go home on time each day. As we know, things didn’t exactly turn out this way. While (we know from our research) the role of IT as a service provider to the business is accepted and widespread, it is still aspirational at a practical level for many organisations.

Why is this? The reason is that, despite best intentions and great theory, most of the organisations we have spoken to have spent the last decade getting better at managing their IT at a component level.

All the same, managing your stuff from the point of view of the person consuming it, at the point of delivery remains where it’s at. Indeed, there is strong evidence of a link between IT helping the business achieve its strategic and operational goals, the alignment of IT services to business drivers and goals, and how IT management is done. But while the business is starting to expect all this service and alignment stuff, it lacks impetus to give the IT department the means to deliver it.

Although ‘services’ are a relatively new concept inside the IT department, the rest of the business has been providing them forever. This is especially true of organisations which manufacture and support a product throughout its lifecycle. However, the attributes of this kind of service are also changing. Many of the assets used in business service delivery now incorporate features and functions which make them look as though they belong inside the IT department. They can be managed as such too.

However, just because they can doesn’t mean they are. ‘Blue collar’ business service delivery is a long way from ‘white collar’ IT service delivery in terms of personnel, equipment and jurisdiction. Two separate worlds with a common goal.

To some organisations service management may look like a million little jobs to be managed. To others it may look like one big job with lots of moving parts. But in either case, seen from the business or the IT perspective, it is how all the jobs or the parts work together, which is more important than the individual components.

Over the next four weeks we’ll dig into the topic of service management. And to kick things off here’s a nice easy question for you: What does service management mean to you and your organisation today, and have the last few years seen any changes emerge? As always, we appreciate your thoughts.

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